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X the Last StandTeaming Up
By Catherine Hapka
HarperkidsentertainmentCopyright © 2006 Catherine Hapka
All right reserved.
Wolverine took a deep breath and grinned. Overhead, a laser blast sliced through the air. There was a crash and a rumble, and a strong smell of smoke all around. A nearby building was on fire. Perfect, Wolverine thought. He always loved a good battle.
Rogue ran to him, her long dark hair flying.
An explosion tore through the air, sending pieces of metal flying at her!
Before Rogue had time to duck, a metal hand reached out and grabbed her arm. She looked up into the face of Colossus. Instantly, Rogue felt her body changing. . . .
Wolverine, Rogue, and Colossus weren't normal humans. They were X-Men -- mutants with incredible powers. Wolverine could heal from any wound, and had metal claws under his skin. Colossus was strong, and his body could turn to metal. And Rogue could take on the power and memories of any person she touched.
Bits of metal bounced off of Rogue's body. She had absorbed Colossus's power -- for the moment, she was made of metal, too.
But Colossus didn't look well. Whenever Rogue used her talent, she drained the energy from the person whose power she took.
"Youokay?" Rogue asked.
Colossus nodded weakly as an explosion shattered behind them.
Unconcerned, Wolverine pulled a piece of metal from his cheek. His face healed immediately.
"How long do we have?" Rogue asked. She sounded anxious.
"Two minutes . . ." Colossus glanced at Wolverine, waiting for a signal. "Tops."
"I'm away a few days and the whole world goes up in flames," Wolverine said. "You want to stand here and get shot?" Lifting an eyebrow, he glanced at a nearby door. It led to an underground bunker.
"If we hit that door," Rogue said, "we're clear."
Searchlights lit up the sky, revealing a tempest of laser blasts and machinery. This was an all-out war, and the X-Men were in the middle of it.
Nearby, Storm watched as Wolverine, Colossus, and Rogue darted toward the bunker. She was out of breath, tired from using her gift to fight the machines with lightning and fierce wind. Storm flew over to join the other two members of her team -- Kitty Pryde and Iceman.
A rocket whistled right at them, but before Storm could cry out, they phased together. This was Kitty's mutant power -- she could become intangible so nothing would harm her. She could also pass through solid walls. The rocket passed by and exploded several yards away from them.
"You okay?" Kitty asked as she and Iceman separated.
"Yeah," Iceman said, catching his breath. "Only a quarter mile to the end."
"Right." Kitty nodded, her dark eyes flashing. "Follow my lead."
Iceman smiled. Kitty was new to the team, but he already knew that he liked her. A laser blast hurtled toward them, and Iceman unleashed a burst of ice. With a hiss, the blast turned to steam and harmlessly disappeared into the air.
When Iceman and Kitty caught up to Storm, she was staring down at a small electronic device on the sleeve of her uniform. It showed a map of the area. A counter in the corner ticked down. They only had one and a half minutes left.
"Let's pick it up," Storm said. She looked over at Wolverine, who was smiling.
He isn't taking this seriously, Storm thought in fury. It's all a game to him! Shaking off her rage, Storm plunged ahead. The other X-Men followed.
"Where is it?" Iceman asked, as the X-Men reached a dead end. "Can anybody see it?"
A shadow passed over them, casting the six mutants into darkness.
Wolverine looked up. Towering over them was an enormous robot -- a Sentinel. It was more than a hundred feet high, and its gleaming steel dimly reflected the burning city. It paused only a moment to register the X-Men, then lunged at them.
Wolverine knew that they had to fight the machine if they wanted to win the battle. He suddenly had an idea. Colossus was strong. Very strong. If he could pick Wolverine up and throw him at the Sentinel, they might have a chance. As quickly as he could, Wolverine explained his idea to Colossus. "Throw me like a fastball!" he said.
In a flash, Colossus picked Wolverine up and hurled him at the enemy. As he flew through the air, Wolverine unleashed his metal claws and slashed at the Sentinel's neck upon impact.
The robot's metal head flew off and rolled to a stop at the feet of the stunned X-Men.
Suddenly, the smoldering cityscape disappeared around them. The X-Men were standing in a huge steel room. The entire battle had been a hologram -- a virtual reality scene projected into the space around them. It was a training exercise to help the X-Men practice using their special talents. That was why the School for Gifted Youngsters existed -- to teach and train the X-Men. "I'm hungry," Wolverine growled. "Who wants pizza?" He turned to Colossus. "Hey, tin man, I've got to say, you throw like a girl . . . overhand."
Storm shook her head as Wolverine walked away. She hurried after him into the hallway.
"What was that?" Storm demanded.
"Danger Room session." Wolverine's voice was cool.
Storm narrowed her eyes. "You know what I mean. It was a defensive exercise."
"I'm just the sub," Wolverine said with a shrug. "If you've got a problem, then talk to Cyclops."
Cyclops could burn through metal with a single blast from his eyes, but he had been a wreck ever since Jean Grey died. Jean had been a talented and important member of the X-Men team. Everyone at the school was sad now that she was gone.
"No," Storm snapped. She was upset. "You can't just come and go as you please. We're trying to run a school here."
With a snarl, Wolverine stalked off. He wanted to have a word with Cyclops.
Excerpted from X the Last Stand by Catherine Hapka Copyright © 2006 by Catherine Hapka. Excerpted by permission.
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